Posts tagged ‘Immigration’

More Thoughts on Immigration -- Why I Think the Tiberius Gracchus Analogy is Particularly Apt

First, congrats to many millions of people who can remain in this country, a status they should have always have had.  We can argue whether anyone who makes his or her way over the border should be able to vote or draw benefits, but there is no doubt in my mind that they should be able to live anywhere they can pay the rent and work anywhere that there is an employer willing to pay them.

I am willing to accept the analysis of folks like Ilya Somin who say that the President's non-enforcement decision on immigration laws is legal.  But I think his concept of "precedent" when he says there are precedents for this sort of thing is way too narrow.  This is an important, dangerous new precedent.

What I think folks are missing who make this argument about precedent is that while many examples exist of the Executive Branch excercising proprietorial discretion, the circumstances are without precedent in both scale and well as in its explicit defiance of legislative intent.  One can argue that Reagan's executive actions vis a vis immigration provide a precedent, for example, but Reagan was essentially following the intent of then-recent Congressional legislation, arguably just fixing flaws with executive orders in the way that legislation was written.  What he did was what Congress wanted.

The reason I think Tiberius Gracchus is a good analog is that Gracchus too took actions that were technically legal.  Tribunes always technically had the legal power to bypass the Senate, but in hundreds of years had never done so.  Despite their technical legality, his actions were seen at the time as extremely aggressive and plowing new Constitutional ground, ground that would soon become a fertile field for authoritarians to enhance their power.

Somin includes the following, which I think is an example of where defenders of the President's process (as different from the outcomes) are missing reality.  He writes:

I would add that the part of the president’s new policy offering work permits to some of those whose deportation is deferred in no way changes the analysis above. The work permits are merely a formalization of the the president’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion here, which indicates that the administration will not attempt to deport these people merely for being present in the United States and attempting to find jobs here. They do not purport to legalize their status, and the policy of nondeportation can be reversed at any time by the president or his successor.

This is one of those statements that are technically true, but totally obtuse at the same time.   Issuing formal get-out-of-jail-free cards to 5 million people is unprecedented.  Think of it this way:  Imagine a Republican President who is opposed to the minimum wage.  The Executive branch is tasked with enforcing that law, so wold the folks defending the President's methods also argue hat the government can issue permits to 5 million businesses allowing them to  ignore labor law?  Or emissions standards?  Or insider trading laws?

People are just being blinded by what they rightly see as a positive goal (helping millions of people) if they fail to see that the President issuing licenses to not be prosecuted for certain crimes is a huge new precedent.  Proprietorial discretion is supposed to be used to avoid patent unfairness in certain cases (e.g. the situation in Colorado with conflicting state and Federal laws on marijuana).  It is not meant to be a veto power for the President over any law on the books.  But I can tell you one thing -- it is going to be seen by future Presidents as just this.  Presidents and parties change, and for those of you swearing this is a totally legal, normal, fully-precedented action, be aware that the next time 5 million wavers are issued, it may well be for a law you DO want enforced.  Then what?

Update:  Libertarians are making the case that the Constitution never gave Congress the power to restrict immigration.  I could not agree more.  However, I fear that will have zero impact on the precedent that will be inferred from all this.  Because what matters is how the political community as a whole interprets a precedent, and I think that this will be interpreted as "the president may issue mass waivers from any law he does not like."  Now, since I dislike a hell of a lot of the laws on the books, perhaps over time I will like this precedent.  But the way things work is that expansive new executive powers seldom work in favor of liberty in the long run, so I am skeptical.

Arizona's Real Immigration Issue: Californians

Some libertarians, who would normally be all for open immigration, have expressed concern about -- in the name of liberty -- allowing into the country people who will generally vote against it.  I have at times shared this concern but in the end find it wanting.

However, I have personally observed this happening in both of the recent states in which I have lived (Arizona and Colorado).  But the source of the problem has not been immigration from Mexico or any other country but from California.  Californians seem hell-bent to escape the mess they have made of their state.  They run to other states complaining of the disaster they are escaping.  And then they proceed to vote for the same taxation and regulatory policies that screwed up California.

Arizona state politicians are excited to get all that new income tax money.  While I am happy to see new wealth and talent flowing into our state, I fear that these new immigrants are plague carriers, bringing the virus of out-of-control state power to heretofore only mildly infected states.

The Libertarian Argument Against Open Immigration

I personally support much more open immigration, as do many other libertarians.  When I get push-back from my libertarian friends, it generally is on two fronts:

  • You can't combine open immigration with a welfare state -- this leads to financial implosion
  • Open immigration allows illiberal, anti-democratic people to take power through the democratic process (a phrase I stole from here, though it is not actually about immigration).  In the name of liberty, we let people come in and vote for authoritarian illiberal measures.**

I agree that both of these are real problems.  The key for me is to disassociate legal presence in this country from citizenship.  It should certainly be possible to have multiple flavors of legal presence in this country.   At level 1, anyone can legally be present, seek employment, buy property, and have access to certain services (e.g. emergency services).  At level 2, history of working and paying payroll and income taxes gets more access to welfare-state sort of programs.  Over time, this may or may not lead to full citizenship and voting rights, but there is no reason we can't still be careful with handing out full citizenship while being relatively free with allowing legal work and habitation.

 

** I have observed a US internal version of this.  People run away from California to places like Arizona and Texas to escape California's dis-functionality   But as soon as they arrive in their new home, they start voting for the exact same crap that sank California.

Arizona Sheriff Exaggerating Immigration Crime, and its Not Even Joe Arpaio

Electing law enforcement officers is a terrible idea, but like most of the country, we do it here in Arizona.  We shouldn't be surprised, then, when Sheriff's try to pump up their image by portraying themselves as the last bastion against an invading horde.

When it was over, Sheriff Paul Babeu issued a news release declaring that Pinal County is "the No. 1 pass-through county in all of America for drug and human trafficking."

It's a line the sheriff has used countless times - most recently on Thursday in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security - as he criticizes the federal government for failing to secure the border.

There's just one problem: There is no data to support the assertion.

In fact, an Arizona Republic analysis of statistics from local, state and federal sources found that, while sheriff's officials do bust smugglers and seize pot, Pinal County accounts for only a fraction of overall trafficking.

The newspaper also found that other headline-grabbing claims by Babeu are contradicted by statistical evidence or greatly exaggerated.

Babeu's County, for example, does not even touch the border.   And crime rates in AZ have fallen faster over the last 10 years than the national average, right during the period of high illegal immigration.

Immigration and Median Income

I have hypothesized that immigration may have an effect on median income -- not because it is bad for the economy per se but just form the fact of adding millions of new people in the bottom quartiles would tend to shift the median downwards (just the pure math of the thing).

I have only given them a quick glance at this point, but Tyler Cowen links several studies that tend to say my hypothesis is false.

Also, here is an interesting discussion about the median income stagnation hypothesis itself and how sensitive it is to the end point, pointing out in particular that most folks start their analysis from a point within Nixon's wage and price controls, which skew the data - shifting the start point forward even a couple of years makes most of the stagnation go away.  He builds on a post by Brink Lindsey showing historic median income growth over a longer time frame, implying the aberration may have been the boom of the 1950s and 1960s rather than the lower growth rates of today.

I would normally find this a fascinating debate if it weren't for the dark cloud behind it that half the folks arguing the point wish to use it as a justification for further reductions in economic liberties.

A Plea to Conservatives on Immigration

My Forbes column this week is up, and it is a sort of open letter to Conservatives, trying to demonstrate that their stance against immigration is inconsistent with many of their other principles.  A quick exceprt:

Just to be clear, it is perfectly reasonable that the government might set restrictive or difficult eligibility requirements for participation in government activities we normally associate with citizenship, such as voting, holding office and receiving welfare benefits. But selling one's labor or participation in commerce are natural rights to which happenstance of birth location should be irrelevant. It should mean no more to these rights that someone is born today north or south of the Rio Grande river than it meant to our founding fathers that someone was born with or without a hereditary title.

Immigration Debate May Get Uglier (and Nuttier) Here in Arizona

Readers know I oppose recent Arizona immigration legislation and enforcement initiatives.  I don't think government should be stepping in to effectively license who can and can't work in this country, and am thus a supporter of open immigration (which is different from citizenship, please note).  As I support open immigration, both from a philosophic standpoint as well as a utilitarian perspective, I don't support laws to get tougher on illegal immigrants, any more than I support laws to get tougher on the failed practice of drug prohibition.

That being said, reasonable people can disagree, though some for better reasons than others.  But I don't see how all these folks who support tougher laws on immigration with the mantra that it is all about the rule of law can justify this piece of unconstitutional garbage:  (Hat tip to a reader)

Buoyed by recent public opinion polls suggesting they're on the right track with illegal immigration, Arizona Republicans will likely introduce legislation this fall that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona "” and thus American citizens according to the U.S. Constitution "” to parents who are not legal U.S. citizens. The law largely is the brainchild of state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Republican whose suburban district, Mesa, is considered the conservative bastion of the Phoenix political scene....

The question is whether that would violate the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment states that "all persons, born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." It was intended to provide citizenship for freed slaves and served as a final answer to the Dred Scott case, cementing the federal government's control over citizenship.

But that was 1868. Today, Pearce says the 14th Amendment has been "hijacked" by illegal immigrants. "They use it as a wedge," Pearce says. "This is an orchestrated effort by them to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we've created." Pearce says he is aware of the constitutional issues involved with the bill and vows to introduce it nevertheless. "We will write it right."

I didn't like SB1070 that much, but as ultimately amended it was not nearly as radical as this.  I think those of us who feared SB1070 as a first step on a slippery slope should feel vindicated by this.

The Immigration Debate Summarized

Conservatives want immigrants to work, but not vote.

Liberals want immigrants to vote, but not work.

The Immigration Non-Crime Wave

Proponents of tougher immigration enforcement often use crime as their big scare factor in trying to influence people to their point.  Only tougher laws and Joe Arpaio, they caution, stand athwart the coming immigrant rape of Phoenix.

But when the case is built on one or two high-profile crime where the perpetrator has not even been identified, rather than statistics, we can be suspicious of how strong the case is.  I have cited historical figures here, but the WSJ has the new figures for 2009:

Violent crime fell significantly last year in cities across the U.S., according to preliminary federal statistics, challenging the widely held belief that recessions drive up crime rates.

The incidence of violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault was down 5.5% from 2008, and 6.9% in big cities. It fell 2.4% in long-troubled Detroit and plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash....

In Phoenix, police spokesman Trent Crump said, "Despite all the hype, in every single reportable crime category, we're significantly down." Mr. Crump said Phoenix's most recent data for 2010 indicated still lower crime. For the first quarter of 2010, violent crime was down 17% overall in the city, while homicides were down 38% and robberies 27%, compared with the same period in 2009.

Arizona's major cities all registered declines. A perceived rise in crime is one reason often cited by proponents of a new law intended to crack down on illegal immigration. The number of kidnappings reported in Phoenix, which hit 368 in 2008, was also down, though police officials didn't have exact figures.

And just to head off the obvious straw man, 2008 was not somehow a peak year, it was actually well below historical levels.

Anti-Immigration Playbook

There is an anti-immigrant playbook in this country that goes back at least to the 1840's and the first wave of Irish immigrants.  Typical arguments applied to nearly every wave of immigrants to this country have been 1.  They are lazy; 2. They are going to take our jobs (funny in conjunction with #1); 3.  They increase crime and 4. They bring disease.

To date in Arizona, we have seen all three of the first arguments in spades, but until recently I had not seen #4.  But trust Sheriff Joe to be out front on this, issuing a press release stating:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio says that he has long argued the point that illegal immigration is not just a law enforcement problem but is a potential health hazard as well.

"This is a risk to our community and to my deputies," Arpaio says. "Deputies never know what they may face in the course of enforcing human smuggling laws."

Arpaio says that in the last two months, four inmates, all illegal aliens from the country of Mexico, were confirmed with having chicken pox, placing 160 inmates into immediate medical quarantine.

Earlier Apraio had this to say to GQ magazine (but he's not a racist!)

All these people that come over, they could come with disease. There's no control, no health checks or anything. They check fruits and vegetables, how come they don't check people? No one talks about that! They're all dirty.

Of course, like many of Arpaio's fulminations, this release fell somewhere between a grand exaggeration and an outright lie.

Maricopa County health officials denied reports by the Sheriff's Office that 160 jail inmates had been quarantined two months ago because of four illegal immigrants with chicken pox.

Officials also downplayed a news release issued by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office last night about chicken pox found in immigrants busted yesterday, noting that such minor outbreaks don't normally make the news.

After our inquiries, MCSO Lieutenant Brian Lee said that Arpaio had, in fact, misspoken when he stated for the news release that a large-scale "quarantine" had taken place.

I know he's an American citizen but still

The title is from a quote by Representative Peter King, lamenting that the Feds might actually have the gall to Mirandize an American citizen who has been arrested.

Miranda warnings are not actually required per se, but statements by un-Mirandized suspects will generally be tossed out of court.  So I think the whole Miranda thing is overblown, but Representative King's words tend to summarize for me the slippery slope of civil rights exceptions.  Someday, you too may be the "but still."

On top of Mr. King's statement and our local Sheriff's continuing proclivity to walk into businesses and zip-tie everyone with brown skin until they can produce birth certifications  (yes, he did it again last month and again the other day) comes Joe Lieberman's new bit of law and order paranoia.  Apparently, after watching a 24-hour festival of 1970's Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson crime dramas, Lieberman proposed:

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA), joined on the House side by Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA) and Charlie Dent (R-PA), today introduced a little publicity stunt in legislative form called the Terrorist Expatriation Act, making good on Lieberman's pledge to find a way to strip the citizenship of Americans"”whether naturalized or native born"”who are suspected of aiding terrorist groups. It does so by amending the Immigration and Nationality Act, which lays out the various conditions under which a person may renounce or be deprived of citizenship....

Finally, note that the bill's definition of "material support" for terrorist groups explicitly invokes the criminal statute covering such actions.  Which is to say, revocation of citizenship under the new bill is triggered by committing a particular federal crime. Except that the Immigration and Nationality Act only requires that one of the predicates for revocation be established by a "preponderance of the evidence." So in effect, the bill takes what is already a crime and says: Proof of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" is no longer a prerequisite for the imposition of punishment for this crime.

"Preponderance of the evidence" is the same standard under which McDonald's lost several million dollars because its coffee was too hot.

The Immigration Debate and Racism

Exclusionist Conservatives in Arizona are quick to defend themselves against charges of racism.  While I tend to be an pro-immigration hawk, I accept that there are issues, such as the conflict of immigration and the welfare state, where reasonable people can disagree as to solutions without any hint of racism charging the debate.  I really, really resist playing the race card on anyone.

However, if Conservatives really want to discourage charges of racism, they need to  stop playing on fears of immigrant crime as a main argument in their case (example from Expresso Pundit).  Such fears of minority group violence are part and parcel of every racist position in history.   The out-group is always vilified as criminal, whether it be blacks in the 60's or Italians and Eastern Europeans earlier in the century or the Irish in the 19th century.

There is no evidence either recently or throughout history of immigrant-led crime waves, and in fact as I wrote the other day crime rates in Arizona are improving throughout this "invasion" at a faster rate than the US average. So when Conservatives grab a single example, such as the Pinal County shooting  (for which no suspects have been identified) as "proof" we need immigration reform, they are no different than Al Sharpton grandstanding based on the Tawana Brawley case  (and possibly these cases could be even more similar, update: or perhaps not).

Stop trying to manufacture a crime spree that does not exist.  Sure, illegal immigrants commit some murders.  So do every other group.  There is no evidence they commit such murders at a disproportionate rate.  And yes, I understand there are violent, paramilitary gangs roving Northern Mexico, which currently is in a state of chaos, that we really don't want to spill over into Arizona.  But this has been a threat for years, and for all the fear, there is no evidence that they are somehow increasing their activities here.  And even if they were, laws that give Joe Arpaio additional power to harass day laborers in Phoenix are sure as hell not going to scare them off.

Immigration Law Updates

The most important news, I suppose, is that Arizona has made its new immigration law more palatable with a few changes.

The first concerns the phrase "lawful contact," which is contained in this controversial portion of the bill: "For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency"¦where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person"¦"  Although drafters of the law said the intent of "lawful contact" was to specify situations in which police have stopped someone because he or she was suspected of violating some other law "” like a traffic stop "” critics said it would allow cops to pick anyone out of a crowd and "demand their papers."

So now, in response to those critics, lawmakers have removed "lawful contact" from the bill and replaced it with "lawful stop, detention or arrest." In an explanatory note, lawmakers added that the change "stipulates that a lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state."

"It was the intent of the legislature for "˜lawful contact' to mean arrests and stops, but people on the left mischaracterized it," says Kris Kobach, the law professor and former Bush Justice Department official who helped draft the law.  "So that term is now defined."

The second change concerns the word "solely."  In a safeguard against racial profiling, the law contained the phrase, "The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin."  Critics objected to that, too, arguing again that it would not prevent but instead lead to racial profiling.  So lawmakers have taken out the word "solely."

"There were misstatements by the opponents of the law that this was written to permit some consideration of race in the enforcement of this law," says Kobach, "and that's not the case at all."

It is hard for me to separate in my mind whether the problem I have with what remains is really with this law or with the individuals whom I know to be tasked with its enforcement.  Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a history of pulling over every Mexican he runs into with a broken tail light on his crime sweeps, so in actual practice, the requirement of there being some other crime involved doesn't do much to make me fear profiling any less.  But its hard for me to say that checking immigration status of people arrested or detained is unreasonable, so it may be I am just uncomfortable with the overzealous enforcements and Sheriff Joe's patented crime sweeps.  (I am still opposed to the socialist definition of property rights that conservatives have adopted in the law).

I thought Megan McArdle had an interesting point:

If the immigration problems in Arizona are really so serious that they merit deep intrusions upon the liberty of citizens who happen to resemble illegal immigrants, than they are serious enough to intrude on the liberty of everyone.  Don't make the cops check the status of anyone who they "reasonably suspect" is illegal; make them check the status of everyone, no matter how blond-haired, blue-eyes, and fluent in standard American english they may be.  If you forget your license at home, the police detain you, just like they detain anyone of mexican descent, while someone fetches it.  If you can't produce a birth certificate, passport, or similar, then you wait in the pokey until they can verify your legal status.  No police discretion.  No profiling.

We can illustrate McArdle's point with an example, where our sheriff's descended on a local business and zip-tied and detained anyone who looked Hispanic until they could produce proof of immigration status.  No Anglos at this location were treated the same way:

Deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office raided a Mesa landscaping company early Wednesday morning, arresting nearly three dozen people suspected of being in the country illegally.

The raid on offices of Artistic Land Management, on Main Street just west of Dobson Road, happened about 4:30 a.m., according to one worker who was handcuffed and detained before being released when he produced documentation that he was in the country legally"¦.

Juarez estimated about 35 workers were handcuffed with plastic zip-ties while deputies checked for documents. Those who could provide proof they were in the country legally were released, while others were put on buses and taken away.

This is something the bill supporters just don't want to deal with -- the ugly sight of all the brown skinned workers at a location separated out from their peers and zip-tied until they can produce the proper government papers.

Daniel Griswold of Cato offered what I thought was an excellent framework for thinking about immigration and immigration reform:

Requiring successful enforcement of the current immigration laws before they can be changed is a non sequitur. It's like saying, in 1932, that we can't repeal the nationwide prohibition on alcohol consumption until we've drastically reduced the number of moonshine stills and bootleggers. But Prohibition itself created the conditions for the rise of those underground enterprises, and the repeal of Prohibition was necessary before the government could "get control" of its unintended consequences.

Illegal immigration is the Prohibition debate of our day. By essentially barring the legal entry of low-skilled immigrant workers, our own government has created the conditions for an underground labor market, complete with smuggling and day-labor operations. As long as the government maintains this prohibition, illegal immigration will be widespread, and the cost of reducing it, in tax dollars and compromised civil liberties, will be enormous.

It turns out that after excoriating the Arizona law as being too intrusive, Democrats have responded with ... something even more intrusive.

Sometimes I just love the Democrats.  After fomenting a near meltdown over the Arizona immigration law, with charges of nazism and cries of "show me you papers!" flying hither and yon, the Democrats introduce an immigration framework with what?

Improved papers, of course.

Yes, the Dems screwed the pooch and included a national ID card in their proposed legislation.  And a biometric one at that.   As someone characterized it, it's a "super Social Security card".  Remember when you were assured that your SS card/number was not for identification purposes and never would be.  Well Bunky, that was as true as most of the promises politicians make.

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

As a final note, for years I have asked strong exclusionist conservatives how they square their opposition to immigration with their desire for freedom of contract and exchange.  After all, if commerce is free, do I not have the right to hire anyone I want for a job, no matter where that person was born.  Why do Conservatives want to require that all workers have government licenses before they can be hired?  It turns out that the ACLU makes the same point in response to the above proposal (from the link above, emphasis added):

"Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy "” one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA," said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel.

Note to Conservatives-- when the ACLU, founded by Marxists and which to this day resists recognizing property rights, gets out ahead of you on the rights to free exchange and commerce, you are in trouble.

Update:  More from Brad Warbiany and Matt Welch

Probable Cause

From our new SB1070 Immigration Law here in AZ (sorry for the caps)

B. FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE PERSON'S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c).

Supporters have said this is not about profiling or harassing people with brown skin.  So what, other than skin color, does constitute probably cause in this case?  Low rider suspension?  Mexican music tapes?

Anyone who things Joe Arpaio will not use this to demand that everyone with brown skin has to show their papers has not been paying attention.  I have driven around for 3 years with a broken tail light and never been stopped.  Had I had brown skin, I would have been stopped years ago.  This is the man who went into tony, lilly white Fountain Hills on a crime sweep and somehow 75% of the those arrested were Hispanic.

Here is one example, where deputies entered a local business, zip-tied and detained everyone who had brown skin, and then later released those who could provide their papers:

Deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office raided a Mesa landscaping company early Wednesday morning, arresting nearly three dozen people suspected of being in the country illegally.

The raid on offices of Artistic Land Management, on Main Street just west of Dobson Road, happened about 4:30 a.m., according to one worker who was handcuffed and detained before being released when he produced documentation that he was in the country legally"¦.

Juarez estimated about 35 workers were handcuffed with plastic zip-ties while deputies checked for documents. Those who could provide proof they were in the country legally were released, while others were put on buses and taken away.

Update: More from the bill, with language Conservatives would tend to oppose on absolutely anything except immigration

E. A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, WITHOUT A WARRANT, MAY ARREST A PERSON IF THE OFFICER HAS PROBABLE CAUSE TO BELIEVE THAT THE PERSON HAS COMMITTED ANY PUBLIC OFFENSE THAT MAKES THE PERSON REMOVABLE FROM THE UNITED STATES.

Update #2: Steve Chapman also doesn't know how to spot an illegal immigrant.  But that's OK, neither does our governor:

After signing the new law requiring police to check out people who may be illegal immigrants, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was asked how the cops are supposed to know when someone should be screened. "I don't know," she replied. "I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like."

No kidding. But she has a lot of company in her ignorance. When I called University of Arizona law professor Marc Miller and told him I wasn't sure what some of the law's provisions mean, he replied, "Neither is anyone else on the planet." We will find out what it means after it takes effect, not before.

The last sentence seems awfully reminiscent of the health care bill.

An Immigration Proposal

It is increasingly hard to have an immigration discussion here in Phoenix.  The vast majority of residents are absolutely convinced, despite evidence to the contrary, that they are in the middle of an apocalyptic version of the Mariel boatlift and have found themselves surrounded by Tony Montana's ready to carve them up save for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's brave intervention.

You never meet anyone who has actually had a problem with immigrants, and most like the immigrants, even the illegal ones, they know.   The other night a friend of mine said that we were all victims - I asked, "how?"  Everyone seems to have stories of immigrant hijinx, but they are all like the stories of the lady who put her cat in a microwave -- it happened to someone else.  And we do have stories of immigrant crimes on TV, but like shark attacks and extreme weather events, we overestimate their frequency because only certain outliers at the edges of the normal distribution get reported.

As an aside, one of the interesting things about the immigration debate for those of us who have read US history is how amazingly similar current arguments against particularly Mexican immigrants  (the commit crime, they don't integrate, they take jobs from Americans) are identical to arguments used against the Irish, Italians, and most eastern Europeans at one time or another.   I heard a woman at a part a while back of Slav background talking about how here immigrant grandparents were different than these Mexicans.  I told her that the exact same arguments she was using were used against Easter Europeans in the early 20th century, and in fact, and in fact the first real immigration quotas in this country were meant to keep her ancestors out.

As a result, I tend to grab the pro-immigration side in debates, even though I think there are some sensible reasons it probably has to be restricted or restructured, just because I really don't like the vibe coming from the immigration opponents around me.  When people take positions out of irrational fear and loathing, I am hugely reluctant to make any sort of common cause even if some of our concerns overlap.

Bruce McQuain argues that the main barrier to his advocating open immigration is the welfare state, and I am sympathetic to that argument.  I still, however, think we are smart enough to have a safety net and allow much more open immigration.  Bruce Pick has some sensible suggestions, and I published my own plan here.

And, as a final thought, the locals are never, ever going to convince me to their side when they trot Joe Arpaio up to the podium to make their case.  I have opposed the current immigration law in Arizona less because of any immigration issues and more because Joe does not need any more arbitrary authority.  I like what Radley Balko wrote the other day:

Dear Tea Partiers,

Ask Joe Arpaio to be your keynote speaker, and you've lost me.

He's a power-mad thug with a badge, the walking, mouth-breathing antithesis of the phrase "limited government."

Yes, this is but one state chapter in your movement. So distance yourself from them.

It's one thing to have a few idiots and nutjobs show up at your rallies.

It's quite another to invite one to speak.

Yours,

Radley Balko

More good stuff here.

Immigration is a thorny issue. But when we stand around and say "we don't want you here", I have to break ranks. When they say "these immigrants are damaging our economy", I have to break ranks. I don't have all the answers as to how to fix the problem, but I know that I refuse to close our country to people who want to live the American Dream. We have to enforce our laws, but when our laws are contrary to the very fabric of America, those laws need to change.

Absurd Argument of the Day

This comes from an email I got from some folks called the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

FAIR's new report, The Environmentalist Guide to a Sensible Immigration Policy examines the relationship between America's mass immigration policies and skyrocketing population growth.  It details how both are severely limiting America's ability to make meaningful progress toward important environmental goals.

"Some environmental groups like to pretend that this correlation does not exist," said Dan Stein, President of FAIR. "Because of pressures brought to bear by politically charged special interests demanding open borders, groups sincerely interested in advancing sensible environmental policies remain muzzled on the issue.  Overpopulation fueled by uncontrolled immigration - the root cause of most resource depletion - is unfortunately deemed too radioactive to discuss in some circles."

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, U.S. population has grown by 50 percent, or about 100 million people. U.S. population now stands at approximately 308 million and is currently growing by nearly three million a year "“ the equivalent of adding a new Chicago each year.  By 2050, an estimated 438 million people will live in this country with more than 80 percent of the increase coming from post-2005 immigrants and their children.

Uh, these people would exist whether they live on one side of the map or the other, its not clear how immigration contributes to over-population, unless they are taking some coldly Malthusian argument that more of them would die young in poverty than do once they improve their lives in the US.   Sure, they may be wealthier having come to the US and use more energy and consume more, but my strong sense is that as they come to the US and get wealthier, then their birthrates actually fall, even if they remain higher than the US average.

Immigration and Crime

From Steve Chapman:

It's no surprise that Arizonans resent the recent influx of unauthorized foreigners, some of them criminals. But there is less here than meets the eye.

The state has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants. But contrary to myth, they have not brought an epidemic of murder and mayhem with them. Surprise of surprises, the state has gotten safer.

Over the last decade, the violent crime rate has dropped by 19 percent, while property crime is down by 20 percent. Crime has also declined in the rest of the country, but not as fast as in Arizona.

Babeu's claim about police killings came as news to me. When I called his office to get a list of victims, I learned there has been only one since the beginning of 2008"”deeply regrettable, but not exactly a trend.

Truth is, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native Americans. Most come here to work, and in their desire to stay, they are generally afraid to do anything that might draw the attention of armed people wearing badges.

El Paso, Texas, is next door to the exceptionally violent Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and easily accessible to illegal entry. Yet it is one of the safest cities in the United States.

Illegal Immigration and the Rule of Law

As is usual when I make an immigration post (wherein I am supportive of open immigration and suspicious of gung-ho enforcement efforts) I got mail saying that the real concern here is the rule of law.   People inevitably want to inform me that this immigration is ILLEGAL (usually in caps) and that these immigrants are BREAKING THE LAW and that the law cannot be enforced unevenly.

First, I am happy to listen to this argument from any commenter who has never broken the speed limit or done a rolling stop at a stop sign.

Second, I would like to offer the rule of law folks, especially those on the right side of the aisle, a thought problem:  Soon, it will be illegal to not purchase a health insurance policy that meets specifications set by Congress.  It is anticipated, however, given relatively low fines, that many people will break this law and not obtain health insurance.   This failure will be ILLEGAL.  These people will be criminals.  Do those of you who seek higher penalties, more robust enforcement, police sweeps, and reduced standards of probable cause for people committing the crime of illegal immigration also plan to seek the same higher penalties for lawbreakers who do not buy an insurance policy?   After all, as you have said, this is not about the law itself but respect for the rule of law.

By your immigration logic, we should be ruthless about lawbreakers who do not have the right insurance policy.  We should encourage the Minutemen to patrol for people without health insurance -- after all, they have said that their concern is with people breaking the law, not immigration or Mexicans per se.  There should be sweeps where people can be arrested for suspicion of not having health insurance, just as they can be arrested under our new AZ law for suspicion that they do not have a green card.

If there is a difference, please explain it to me.  I understand that you may be opposed to open immigration or high immigration rates or immigration by poor uneducated people or whatever.  If so, fine, we disagree -- but stop saying that this is all about the rule of law, or telling me we can't pick and choose what laws we violate.  Because we do the latter all the time.  Our willingness to challenge the state is a large part of American exceptionalism.

PS- Just to avoid misunderstandings from trolls who do not usually read this site, of course I do not advocate the above for health insurance violations.  Just as I don't for Mexicans seeking a better life in this country without obtaining a license to do so from the government.

Disclosure: I have several good friends who are illegal immigrants.  They are wonderful, hard-working people who have been in this country for years.  If we were to conduct tests of people's acceptability to be present in this country, they would pass with scores far ahead of many US citizens.

Update:  I find the argument that open immigration and an overly-generous welfare state can't coexist to be moderately compelling, though I don't see why we could tie citizenship narrowly to receiving these benefits.  I have problems saying that a government license in the form of a green card is required for mere presence in the country.  I have no problem imposing this licensing requirement for receipt of unearned goodies.

Our Out of Control County Attorney

Radley Balko has a great article on Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, the wingman for Sheriff Joe Arpaio in any number of abuses of power.  I have tried to write about Thomas before, but some of his exploits are so bizarre and complex that they make simple description difficult, but Balko is clearly a better journalist than I and does a good job summarizing some of his most egregious actions.

The common denominator for both Thomas and Arpaio tends to be their near vendetta responses to anyone who either criticizes them or tries to limit their power (ie by denying a search warrant or dismissing one of their cases).

The most recent mess in Maricopa pits Thomas and Apraio against...well, just about everyone else. The two have been squabbling with members of the county board of supervisors for years over the construction of a $341 million county courthouse tower, which both feel is a waste of money. They might have a point. But Arpaio and Thomas are using criminal law as a cudgel in the dispute.

Last month, Thomas indicted two county supervisors on some petty financial disclosure violations. When Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe issued a ruling pertaining to the court tower investigation that Arpaio and Thomas didn't like, Thomas then indicted Donahoe for bribery, on the absurd premise that as a judge who works in the courthouse, Donahoe (who is retiring soon) would have benefited from the new tower. That indictment came shortly after Donahoe held one of Arpaio's deputies in contempt after a highly-publicized incident in which the deputy was caught on video stealing documents from the file of a defense attorney in open court.

Using criminal charges"”or the threat of them"”to silence political opponents has become something of a habit for Thomas. He has indicted more than a dozen public officials who have criticized him or Arpaio. He has launched or threatened criminal investigations into dozens of others, including politicians, columnists, and other media figures who have dared to criticize him or the sheriff. When Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon asked for a federal investigation of Arpaio's immigration enforcement tactics, Arpaio and Thomas investigated him too, attempting to snoop on Gordon's email, appointment book, and phone records. Thomas even recently threatened to criminally investigate a defense attorney for issuing public statements in support of his client.

These guys are from the bad, statist end of the Republican pond.  Interestingly, Thomas and Arpaio have alienated most of the Republican leadership in Arizona, and rely on their continued popularity with national conservative media and the local populace.   The latter is hard to describe to outsiders.  Its often hard for me to understand.  My best guess is that people ignore Thomas and Arpaio's worst behavior as aimed at people who somehow "don't count," particularly immigrants from Mexico.   Balko quotes Clint Bollack of the Goldwater Institute:

Bolick says their perseverance is also due to the polarizing effects of the immigration debate. Immigration "is extremely divisive," he says. "In the eyes of a lot of people, because they're cracking down on illegal immigrants, Thomas and Arpaio can do no wrong. So there's justification for whatever they do, and any criticism of them on any issue is a betrayal of the cause. It's really unfortunate that it's causing a lot of good people to turn a blind eye to ineffective law enforcement and abuses of power."

I don't want to violate Godwin's law here, but this quote springs to mind about the reactions to Thomas and Arpaio (from a member of the German protestant clergy in the 1930s)

First, the Nazis went after the Jews, but I wasn't a Jew, so I didn't react. Then they went after the Catholics, but I wasn't a Catholic, so I didn't object. Then they went after the worker, but I wasn't a worker, so I didn't stand up. Then they went after the Protestant clergy and by then it was too late for anybody to stand up.

No Sh*t!

Via the Arizona Republic, from a deposition by Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

Arpaio says he was not well versed on the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or its counterpart in the Arizona Constitution, which prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures.

Yeah, no kidding.  This is just kind of bizarre.  I get the whole ghost-writer thing, but at least Obama actually seems to have read the book that was ghost-written for him:

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has not read the book he co-authored in 2008, which includes information on Arpaio's philosophy on America's immigration problem and how to cope with the nation's porous borders.

Arpaio's lack of familiarity with the book, "Joe's Law - America's Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs and Everything Else That Threatens America," was among the revelations to emerge from a nine-hour deposition the sheriff gave as part of a racial-profiling lawsuit filed against the Sheriff's Office.

Update: There is a spin in the article that Sheriff Joe is just a delegator, like any good corporate executive.  I am generally considered to be far more comfortable with delegation than average, and even I know a lot more about my business than Sheriff Joe does about his.    Part of the reason is likely that I don't spend 95% of my time on media and PR events to boost my name recognition at public expense.  And you can be dang sure that I know certain pieces of legislation that are important to my business, like the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Service Contract Act, better than my lawyers.

Another Great Argument for Open Immigration

Via Tyler Cowen:

Female migrants should on average be prettier, ceteris paribus, than those who stay in the old country.

Do Your Care About Brackets, or People?

A lot of the lefty sites are gearing up the "poor aren't sharing in the benefits" bandwagon again.  This is usually brought out of the garage whenever someone wants to put a really progressive soak-the-successful tax plan on the table.  So get ready.

The key to parsing their argument is to understand the following distinction:  Do you care about quintiles, or individuals?  Because if you care about quintiles, then there is no doubt that the real median income of the lowest income quintile has not advanced much over the last 15-20 years.  But quintiles are not individuals, and the evidence is that individuals are still doing well, whatever bracket they begin in.  Because you see, while the average for the bottom quintile may not be much higher than the average for that bracket a decade ago, the fact is that the people in that bracket have changed.   As Mark Perry writes:

A common misperception is that the top or bottom income quintiles, or the top or bottom X% by income, are static, closed, private clubs with very little turnover - once you get into a top or bottom quintile, or a certain income percent, you stay there for life, making it difficult for people to move to a different group. But reality is very different - people move up and down the income quintiles and percentage groups throughout their careers and lives. The top or bottom 1/5/10%, just like the top or bottom quintiles, are never the same people from year to year, there is constant turnover as we move up and down the quintiles.


He quotes some stats from Jeffrey Jones and Daniel Heil:

How much income mobility exists in America? Research consistently affirms that there is substantial upward income mobility in the United States, with the lowest income earners typically showing the strongest results. A Treasury Department study of the 1996"“2005 period used IRS income tax data to discern considerable mobility: more than 55% of taxpayers moved to a different income quintile. More than half the people in the lowest fifth of earners moved to a higher quintile over this period (29% to the second, 14% to the third, 10% to the fourth, and 5% to the highest).

Moreover, there is a great deal of movement in and out of the top income groups. The Treasury data show that 57% "of households in the top 1% in 2005 were not there nine years earlier." The rich sometimes get richer, but they get poorer as well. The study also reveals that income mobility has increased, not decreased, during the past twenty years. For example, 47.3% of those in the lowest income quintile in 1987 saw their incomes increase by at least 100% by 1996. That number jumped to 53.5% from 1996 to 2005.

The Pew Economic Mobility Project tried to track actual people, and not brackets, from tax returns.  This is an imperfect science, but the only real way to look at income mobility.  They found that 90% of white children and 73% of black children whose parents were in the lowest income quartile in the base period were later to be found in higher income quartiles.  But this chart, from the same study, is really telling:

6a00d834518ccc69e201157116e822970b-800wi(click to enlarge)

That is a pretty amazing picture, marred only by something apparently bad occurring with the kids of middle class African Americans.

So how can there be so much income gain everywhere without the averages for the lower quintile increasing.  I would offer at least two explanations:

  1. Immigration. As people gain skills and seniority, they progress to higher income brackets and out of the lower quintile.  However, there is a constant stream of low-skill immigrants moving to this country to fill in the bottom quintile.  It we were to do a quintile analysis apples to apples leaving out new immigrants in the period, I guarantee you would see the median income for the lower quintile increase.  As I wrote before:

    Frequent readers will know that I am a strong supporter of open immigration....However, I am tempted to become a close-the-border proponent if the left continue to use numbers skewed by immigration to justify expansions of taxation and the welfare state.  Whether they are illegal or not, whether they should be allowed to stay or not, the fact is that tens of millions of generally poor and unskilled immigrants have entered this country over the last several decades.  These folks dominate the lower quintile of wage earners in this country, and skew all of our traditional economic indicators downwards.  Median wages appear to be stagnating?  Of course the metric looks this way "” as wages have risen, 10 million new folks have been inserted at the bottom.  If you really want to know what the current median wage is on an apples to apples basis back to 1970, take the current reported median wage and count up about 10 million spots, and that should be the number "” and it will be much higher.

    By the way, even for these immigrants, their position in the lower quintile represents upward mobility for them.  Being in the middle of the lower quintile probably is a huge improvement over where they were in their home country - almost by definition, or they would not be working so hard to get here.

  2. Safety Net. Some large portion of the bottom quintile are supported by the US government's safety net.  And there are pretty good fiscal reasons why the typical real incomes generated by that safety net have not increased over the last 20 years.  And even beyond the fiscal issues, there are incentives issues as well -- at some point, increasing how lucrative the safety net is can reduce the incentive to get off the safety net and find a job.  Just ask the Swedes.  There is a delicate balance between humanity and sustaining folks vs. killing their motivation.In some ways the left's use of the lack of lower quintile progress as an indictment of American capitalism is wildly ironic.  Basically what they are saying is that the 80% of people who support themselves through capitalist endeavor are doing progressively better but the 20% of the people supported by the government are stagnating -- and therefore we need to increase the role of government.

Fugitive Slave Law

I often discuss government actions in terms of one's theory of government.   Here is a good example:  What does one's theory of government have to be to justify this:

The American Jobs Creation act of 2004, passed by the Republican-controlled government, amended section 877 of the Internal Revenue Code. Under the new law, any individual who has a net worth of $2 million or an average income-tax liability of $127,000 who renounces his or her citizenship and leaves the country is automatically assumed to have done so for tax avoidance reasons and is subject to some rather unbelievable tax laws.

Any individual who is declared to have expatriated for tax reasons is forced to pay US income taxes on all US based income for 10 years following expatriation, regardless of the country in which the individual resides. Additionally, in the 10 years following expatriation, if a qualifying individual spends 30 days in the United States during any year, he or she is taxed as a US citizen on all income derived from any place in the world. To make matters worse, if an individual happens to die in a year in which he or she spent at least 30 days in the United States, the entire estate is subject to US income tax law.

The only relationship I can think of that justifies this is master to slave.   When slaves run away, the master feels that he has suffered a financial loss that deserves recompense.  I guess it is somewhat comforting to see Republicans consistent on this issue -- they typically  are strong supporters of having to get government permission to enter this country, so I guess it is no suprise they want to assert government rights on individuals when they exit as well.

Why, Yes They Do

A reader wrote me and asked why, given my dislike for Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I had not blogged on the request by a number of members of the US Congress to investigate Arpaio, particularly regarding his crime sweeps of neighborhoods that seem to result in the arrest of mainly those of Mexican ethnicity.  Heck, he has pulled more Hispanics out of some tony suburbs than I thought could even exist in the area, much less have probable cause for arrest.

I guess I haven't blogged on it because I am busy, and besides I am not sure a political stunt by some Congressmen will really amount to much of an investigation.

But I do have a reaction to the blog post that the reader sent me.  The blog is called MaxRedline and comments thus on the investigation:

This is interesting; it's unclear exactly where in the Founding documents of our nation that illegal aliens are granted civil rights.

This is a mistake I think many conservatives make.  Because, in fact, immigrants, no matter what licenses and permissions they have or don't have from the US government, have the same rights as everyone else.  Because rights don't flow from the government, they flow from the fact of being human.  Government is not the source of rights, it is their protector.  I can bring the founding fathers into the matter as well:

Like the founders of this country, I believe that our individual rights exist by the very fact of our existence as thinking human beings, and that these rights are not the gift of kings or congressmen.  Rights do not flow to us from government, but in fact governments are formed by men as an artificial construct to help us protect those rights, and well-constructed governments, like ours, are carefully limited in their powers to avoid stifling the rights we have inherently as human beings.

Do you see where this is going?  The individual rights we hold dear are our rights as human beings, NOT as citizens.  They flow from our very existence, not from our government. As human beings, we have the right to assemble with whomever we want and to speak our minds.  We have the right to live free of force or physical coercion from other men.  We have the right to make mutually beneficial arrangements with other men, arrangements that might involve exchanging goods, purchasing shelter, or paying another man an agreed upon rate for his work.  We have these rights and more in nature, and have therefore chosen to form governments not to be the source of these rights (for they already existed in advance of governments) but to provide protection of these rights against other men who might try to violate these rights through force or fraud....

These rights of speech and assembly and commerce and property shouldn't, therefore, be contingent on "citizenship".

For the same reasons, we owe the same due process to the civilian we snatched off the streets of Kabul and dumped into Guantanamo as to the housewife from Peoria.   The exception to this is things like voting and running for office, but these are just process issues associated with the artificial construct called government.  And welfare and the New Deal screws a lot of this up, but that is discussed at my post linked above.

Interestingly, most Conservatives would say that they agree with this proposition, that rights flow from our humanity and not from the government.  They would also generally oppose government licensing of all sorts of activities.  But here we have a case where conservatives are arguing that not only some limited commerce rights, but the full package of civil rights, are lost without a certain piece of paper from the government.

Many more immigration posts here.

More Cool Charts

Immigration Explorer at the NY Times.  Dynamic map of US immigration and sources of immigration over the last 120 years.